art by Ron Sanders
by Andrew Knighton
Yan patted down the coffee and slotted it into the machine. He put his hand on the emotional filter plate and tried to think gentle thoughts through the hiss of steam. The customer had asked for soothing, normally one of Yan's specialties, but it was hard to keep calm with the air conditioning broken and the orders rushing in.
He wrinkled his face as sweat beaded at the tip of his nose.
"Don't worry, she'll be here soon enough." Bobbi nudged him aside, mug in one hand, hazelnut syrup in the other.
"Don't know what you mean." Yan tried to keep his heart steady, to keep with the calm.
"Course you do." Bobbi winked. "It's half past one. Nearly time for Surprise Me."
Big eyes and blonde hair flashed across Yan's mind, and excitement filled the last dribble of coffee. He stared down at the cup, knowing he should remake it, but the customers were getting restless. What a day for Maurice to take off.
He turned around with a smile.
"Here you go, sir."
The customer had a programmer's pale complexion. He'd never notice a little excitement.
"Are you being served?" he asked the woman in red lipstick.
"Espresso," she said. "Bitter. Black."
"Of course." Yan turned back to the machine and thought of a science teacher who'd kept marking him down. Bitter was no problem.